“I’m not sure my first job out of college will be as cool as the internship has been. I was kind of shocked that I was exposed to all of these really important people in Rhode Island state politics,” said concentrator Oliver Rosenbloom. During his senior year at Brown, Rosenbloom worked in the Rhode Island governor’s policy office under the Taubman Center’s Governor Frank Licht ’38 internship program.
One of his final assignments for the policy office was to summarize policy memos from more than twenty state agencies — from the education and health departments to the state police and environmental management — that provided information about their legislative and funding concerns at the federal level. Rosenbloom’s boss, policy director Kelly Mahoney, said that Rosenbloom quickly boiled down the hundred-plus pages of documentation to a succinct three-page analysis that the governor and the policy office will use to advocate for the state on a national level.
“It was a ton of information,” said Mahoney. “Oliver has an ability to take complex information and summarize it very quickly.”
In combing through the documents, Rosenbloom discovered that a number of state agencies were losing out on existing federal funding because of the state’s failure to comply with federal regulations. He crafted a second memo for state legislators to bring these Rhode Island programs into alignment with federal requirements and gather this low-hanging fruit.
Rosenbloom also spent considerable time researching transportation issues, including seatbelt laws and tolling. Rhode Island had passed a primary seatbelt law in June 2011, but the law had not been made permanent. (Primary seatbelt laws allow police to stop a motorist for not wearing a seatbelt, whereas a secondary law allows police to ticket only unbuckled motorists who have been stopped for another offense.) The governor’s office wanted to push to make the law permanent but needed data to support the effort.
Rosenbloom studied data on the positive effects of the law — lower injury and death rates, which have resulted in measurable health care savings — as well as a potential negative side effect of the law: racial profiling. Rosenbloom, who has a keen interest in civil rights law, turned his state house assignment into an independent study project comparing how other states grapple with the potential for racial profiling when they enact primary seatbelt laws. As with most policy issues, the connection between primary seatbelt laws and profiling is complex. Most important, said Rosenbloom, is keeping accurate data about traffic stops in conjunction with anti-profiling legislation that outlines methods to prevent racial bias and to root it out when it does occur.
The Licht Internship changed his career path, said Rosenbloom. “I hadn’t really thought of working in state government. I was thinking about law school, or the department of justice or doing government work on the federal level. This [internship] has opened my eyes to state government work.” Rosenbloom, who wanted to return to his home state of California, used his experience in the governor’s policy office to snare a highly competitive ten-month executive fellowship in California’s executive branch. The fellowship, cosponsored by California State University’s Center for California Studies, Sacramento, and the governor’s office, will place him in a state government office starting in October.